Released right on the tail of the Fly! 2K update is Fly! II, a full-fledged sequel to the original flight sim from Terminal Reality. Like both versions of the original Fly!, Fly! II makes a variety of models of aircraft available for the player to pilot. including the Pilatus PC-12 and the Bell 407 helicopter. The game features detailed instrument panels, dynamic lighting effects, and photo-realistic scenery, all designed to add to the experience of flight. Fly II offers pre-configured scenarios and missions for single-player games as well as multiplayer support. A "knowledge base" of Fly! II information and additional map packs are available for download at the game's official website. Players can also join online flight parties, download real time weather and utilize radios to communicate with other other players.
A couple of years ago, fans of civilian flight sims had several high-quality products to choose from. The challengers to Microsoft's flagship Flight Simulator series included Looking Glass Studios' excellent Flight Unlimited III, as well as a newcomer from Terminal Reality called--romantically enough--Fly. Unfortunately, Looking Glass Studios is now defunct, leaving Fly as the only real challenger to the throne Microsoft has held for so many years. The original Fly was a very good game that did some things extremely well--particularly cockpits and instrumentation--though it fell short in some other areas. After last year's interim release, Fly 2K, many hoped that these shortcomings would be addressed in the real sequel, the newly available Fly II. And to some extent, they are--but unfortunately, Fly II has a host of other problems that make it impossible to recommend to anyone but the most experienced of flight simulation enthusiasts.
One problem in Fly II is the scenery, or rather the lack of it. One of the real pleasures of playing a civilian flight sim is the ability to pilot your aircraft around familiar landmarks, such as the Statue of Liberty or the Transamerica building in San Francisco. The original Fly was somewhat lacking in this regard, and thus far, Fly II has detailed scenery for San Francisco, New York, and Paris--but once again, you can't get it out of the box. Rather, to find these urban high-resolution scenery files, users will have to download them. The scenery itself is superior to that of the original Fly.
There are some other strange problems in the game, such as the need to type in your take-off and destination airport names rather than simply selecting them from a list. There's also no force feedback support in the game. All these problems further suggest that Fly II was released well before work and testing had been completed.
It's very disappointing that a simulation with so much potential is marred by so many problems, because Fly II is fundamentally a good game. In two of the three areas that matter most for a civilian flight sim--flight models and cockpit instrumentation--Fly II is as good or better than its competition. Microsoft Flight Simulator still provides superior scenery graphics. But the instrument panels in Fly II are fully clickable and really put the panels in other sims to shame in their detail and functionality. Also, the excellent weather effects (including the ability to import METAR data into the sim to re-create actual weather conditions) and the intuitive yet powerful flight planner feature make Fly II a serious civilian flight sim. The flight models seem less forgiving (and thus probably more realistic) than in Microsoft Flight Simulator. There is a good selection of small planes to choose from, including (but not limited to) the Barracuda, Kodiak, and Pilatus, as well as the Peregrine passenger jet. The Bell 407 helicopter is also available, if you prefer rotary aircraft. There is even a downloadable float helicopter for water landings. One nice feature is the ability to simulate damage to various parts of the aircraft, meaning that you can try to land the aircraft without landing gear or with one engine dead. Fly II has a lot to offer the serious flight sim enthusiast, and the improvements on Fly 2K (which was essentially a dressed-up version of the original with some extras added) mean that owners of the first game would be well advised to upgrade to Fly II. When it's done, that is.
While experienced sim pilots may be able to puzzle their way through the operation of the various aircraft and will be at less of a disadvantage without a manual than beginners will, the lack of detailed scenery will turn off almost everyone. To its credit, Terminal Reality is releasing various downloadable aircraft for free and doing a good job of supporting users by way of Web forums. Still, for those who simply want a functional out-of-the-box game and don't have the time or ability to work through the technical details, Fly II will be a real disappointment.
The Fly series has a lot of things going for it, and the improvements made for Fly II are on the right track, but the latest iteration needs some serious work before it can live up to the standard set by its predecessor.
People who downloaded Fly! 2 have also downloaded:
Flight Unlimited 3, Flight Unlimited 2, Flanker 2.5, Flight Unlimited, Microsoft Flight Simulator 2004: A Century of Flight, Flight Light, F-22 Lightning 3, F/A-18 Operation Desert Storm
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